SAIC and its stakeholders set an agenda for 203017th March 2016

SAIC and its stakeholders set an agenda for 2030

To mark SAIC first’s year, we held a major conference for the Scottish aquaculture sector in November 2015. As well as celebrating the launch of SAIC-supported projects that could transform the industry, we started to shape an agenda for the future growth of aquaculture in Scotland.

The context

Aquaculture is still a young industry in Scotland – just a few decades old, and many centuries younger than agriculture. This youth means there is still much to do in terms of securing understanding of the sector, and setting a path for sustainable growth based on innovation.

And it’s essential that we do set such an agenda: it’s critical to both Scotland’s economic wellbeing and global food security that the sector flourishes.

The event

In planning our first conference, we wanted to stimulate a bold and forward-looking dialogue on the sector’s growth, sustainability, and importance to Scotland’s economy.

We also wanted to showcase the quality of Scotland’s aquaculture produce – not just salmon, but shellfish and seaweed. And we wanted to connect some of the young people studying and working in aquaculture in Scotland – the sector’s future leaders.

The result? On 18 November 2015, around 200 people came together at Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh, to discuss current growth challenges and potential solutions.

The cast was diverse – a deliberate choice to bring together a broad cross-section of senior industry, research and policy stakeholders to collaborate and feed into the discussions. So, we gathered:

  • John Swinney, Deputy First Minister of Scotland, doing the keynote speech and meeting delegates
  • Terry A’Hearn, CEO of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), one of the sector’s primary regulatory stakeholders, to speak about an agenda for environmental protection as a catalyst for growth
  • James Withers, CEO of Scotland Food & Drink, speaking on economic sustainability and growth opportunities
  • Alex Paterson, CEO of Highlands & Islands, on aquaculture’s social dividend
  • Senior executives from Scotland’s largest salmon and shellfish producers, and companies in the aquaculture supply chain
  • Senior researchers and staff from Scotland’s universities
  • Young talent in the industry, including PhD students and Modern Apprentices – ie, the people who’ll deliver aquaculture growth and success in 2030.

In other words, the perfect cast of people to plan an agenda for sustainable growth.

We also had a special session for students and young people in the industry for them to discuss the skillsets they think necessary for success in 2030. Invited speaker was Charlotte Maddocks, recently graduated from the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling, and now Aquaculture Manager at Tesco plc.

The discussions

A number of themes emerged repeatedly through the day, mentioned consistently by speakers and delegates with different perspectives.

Sustainability: growth in Scottish aquaculture requires a balance between the three strands of economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Moreover, the sustainability of many coastal regions in Scotland requires a flourishing aquaculture sector. As Alex Paterson, CEO of Highlands and Islands Enterprise pointed out, aquaculture creates valuable long-term employment and career opportunities in Scotland’s economically fragile regions.

Globalisation: Scotland already exports over £500 million worth of salmon and seafood, and there are huge opportunities to do more, building export success on Scottish provenance and quality. James Withers, CEO of Scotland Food & Drink (SFD), stressed the opportunity to use platforms such as SFD’s global network, and to link with other food and drink businesses.

Consumers: Changing shopping and eating habits create opportunities for innovative food and drink producers, processors and retailers, but create risks for those that are not agile.

Collaboration: In the words of one presenter, “Global risks are ambiguous, dynamic and complex. We don’t have all the answers but together we have a better chance of navigating them.”

Speaker after speaker, delegate after delegate emphasised the importance of collaboration for aquaculture growth and sustainability, for example:

  • Between academia and industry to develop commercially-relevant R&D
  • Between producers to develop exports
  • Between regulators and industry to develop evidence-based regulation and sustainable growth
  • With researchers in other fields to seed innovative thinking, and to transfer technologies from other offshore sectors
  • And with SAIC’s continuing help in forging these connections and collaborations.

Innovation: As SAIC, and our stakeholders and investors, already knew, innovation is critical for economic success, and there’s a strong appetite for it.

The follow-up

The input and discussions of delegates and presenters at our first conference was immensely useful, and we are grateful to all those who participated. Their input is helping us set our own agenda for promoting innovative R&D, driving growth in aquaculture, and futureproofing the industry.

We received great feedback from participants, who valued the opportunity to connect with each other, hear different perspectives, meet future leaders, and put views to regulators and stakeholders.

We also made some short videos about the event, so you can hear at first hand some of the delegates’ thoughts from the day, and their views on Scottish aquaculture in 2030. You can find them at

And finally if you want to attend future SAIC events and workshops, sign up for our Connect & Collaborate service here. You’ll then be among the first to know about them.

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